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How to Make Content the Voice of Strategy

I talk about marketing strategy a lot. It is for me the most important element when it comes to building a long-term, sustainable marketing system.

content strategy

photo credit: Giandomenico Ricci via photopin cc

Your strategy informs every marketing decision. It must be considered when you decide what products you will offer, how you will serve your customers, what your packaging looks like, what your followup entails and how you generate leads.

Today, the common thread in almost every element of delivering on strategy is content. Content is how you move people from know to like to trust. Content is how you give your marketing strategy a voice and, because of that, you must take a strategic and systematic approach to how your content is developed.

I know I’ve said this before and I know I’ll say it again: Waking up every morning and deciding what you are going to write on your blog does not scale.

Below is a refresher of my approach to developing and implementing a content plan with your overall business objectives and strategy in mind. I’ve updated the calendar element with my plan for 2014.

A Total Content SystemTM approach allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose and generally get far more out of every piece of content you produce. Once your system is in place it will build momentum with each passing month and begin to multiply in value to your organization.

The Total Content System goes like this:

  • Create a list of monthly Foundational Content Themes
  • Develop your Content Delivery Platform
  • Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Foundational Content Themes

Either through your own knowledge or by using a keyword tool like MOZ or Wordtracker, develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months.

Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a book. Each month might represent a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

I’ll use my organization as an example to help illustrate this point. My business and model may be significantly different than yours, but examples always seem to help fill in the blanks for people.

My editorial themes for 2014:

  • January – Planning and organizational development
  • February – Offline marketing
  • March – Content marketing
  • April – Inbound selling
  • May – Outbound marketing
  • June – Marketing automation
  • July – Marketing strategy
  • August – Mobile marketing
  • September – Networking/Referrals
  • October – Community practices
  • November – Social media
  • December – Personal growth

These are all topics that I believe my community is interested in learning more about and that I personally have an interest in developing more content around. (I’m working on a sales book and will be heavy into daily writing on that project in March – all content has a purpose!)

Develop your Content Delivery Platform

Now that I have my list of foundational themes I can organize my Content Delivery Platform components accordingly. Again, this is my model, but many of these elements work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.

  • Newsletter – I put out a weekly email newsletter. I will add themed content to each issue either through some of my own writing or by finding other people’s content related to the theme and highlighting it.
  • Blog posts – I write a daily blog post and may schedule a post related to the theme on a weekly basis. This still gives me lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content and SEO standpoint.
  • Guest posts – We currently run one guest post a week and use our monthly theme to suggest topics to potential guests. (If you would like to submit a guest post see the themes above for guidance and submit your idea here.)
  • Podcast guests – I produce a weekly audio podcast and the monthly theme really gives me guidance in lining up topic experts well in advance.
  • PR Pitches – We use our themes to promote stories and pitches to the media.
  • Sponsored pitches – We receive invitations to write sponsored content and conduct sponsored webinars and use our theme to guide these pitches. We also reach out to organizations that might have a special interest in a particular month’s theme with sponsor opportunities.
  • Webinars – Since we are creating all this rich, topic specific content we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.
  • eBook – People really seem to love eBooks and they are an essential element in our list building efforts. Most themes lend themselves nicely to an eBook compilation.
  • Curate a Scoop.it topic – As we are doing the research and preparing all of the ideas for our own content, we bookmark tons of other people’s content, books, experts, tools and the like related to our theme and save the entire collection as a curated topic on Scoop.it. This allows us to attract even more readers and creates a nice library to draw from.
  • Create a content package – The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a membership or community offering that would allow people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that while so much content is free and available, people will pay for content that is packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Figure that piece out and you’ll really make your content efforts pay directly.

Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Okay, so now you’ve got your themes plotted out and you’ve got a plan for creating, filtering and aggregating all manner and form of content into your delivery system. It’s time map your content plan to your core business objectives.

This step allows you to better understand how to get return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

For example, if one of your stated annual objectives is to dramatically increase the sale of information products, you would produce content with product creation in mind. Or, if one of your stated objectives for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing, delivering and sharing content that attracts email capture, links and strategic partnering.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long. When you know what your theme is this month and next month all of a sudden books, tools, articles and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.

How Should Business Adapt to the Facebook Paper App?

By now you’ve probably at least read about Facebook’s newest app called Paper. If you own an iPhone and live in the US it’s also possible that you’ve downloaded and experienced the new app. (Really silly name and too bad because there’s a totally awesome iPad app already called Paper)

Facebook Paper

The first thing you must understand is that this is not the new Facebook app, it’s a new way to experience Facebook. The Facebook app remains as do Facebook Messenger and Pages apps. Paper is a decidedly visual way to view your news stream as well as aggregate content from other categorized content areas such as tech and sports.

Flipboard users will recognize the magazine like layout and swipe gesture pros will appreciate the many ways to move and consume content. Probably my favorite element is the “Ken turns” effect that allows you to change the view of a full screen image by tilting the phone this way and that.

I’ve played around with for a day now and I would say I’m mixed. It’s certainly more visually appealing and the content it turns up is very readable, but I don’t know if I need another app for that. Hardcore Facebook users might not like it as the primary way to interact with their friends.

Initial reviews, however, are quite bullish on this new, potentially game changing mobile view of Facebook. but what does it mean to marketers? Well, here’s what seems obvious.

No ads for now

The app launched ad free but something tells me this is the perfect platform for story telling, entertaining ads much like you saw from Bud Light during the Super Bowl with the Llama ad. Start thinking promotions as episodic content.

Long form content on mobile

The layout lends itself to long form content that mobile users seem to be coming around to. Other aggregation apps, particularly iPad based apps, have seen this same thing. Start thinking Mediumesque story lines.

Visual media focus

The app features full screen images with panoramic functionality and auto play video settings. Facebook is clearly signaling that the text only update isn’t welcome. Start designing posts with the image impact first.

Facebook and Google have both experienced their share of misfires in the social mobile space but Facebook may have chalked one up on the positive side with Paper.

Somehow this feels fundamentally shifty and not in the traditional sense of the word. Facebook seems to have decided its best play is to spread and conquer rather than simply try to create the biggest castle and users are responding to the multiple app play.

Talkwalker Now Integrates with HootSuite

I’ve written in the past about the tools I use for social engagement. Today, two of those tools came together in the form of a Talkwalker app for Hootsuite.

I use Talkwalker to get alerts for keywords like my brand and name and the titles of my books. I use Hootsuite to post to social networks and monitor keywords, hashtags and Twitter lists. Now I can work with both in new ways.

Talkwalker with Hootsuite

The integration allow you to:

  • Monitor websites including major newspapers, blogs, forums, and other social data across the world;
  • Log into your existing Talkwalker Alerts account, and instantly find all your Alerts now displayed as reader-friendly HootSuite streams, or,
  • Sign up for a new Talkwalker Alerts account straight from HootSuite within a matter of seconds (see the video tutorial.)
  • Share interesting content to your social communities in real time (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, WordPress…) in one click.

The sharing aspect is probably my favorite element – now when I get an alert that I want to share I can do it without leaving the Hootsuite app.

If you’re already a HootSuite and Talkwalker user, you can install the Talkwalker app in HootSuite or Sign up for HootSuite and install the Talkwalker app.

3 Tips for Creating a Strong Connection between Audience and Content

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Steve Giangola – Enjoy!

Great content isn’t only well written but also makes a vital connection with current or potential clients. Consider the below three ways to boost the link between your company’s self presentation and your target audience.

1. Don’t be afraid to be informal

Although professionalism is always key, quality content doesn’t have to feel clinical. Make a joke, relate to readers’ experiences, and be casual as well as friendly while remembering you are representing a business that thrives on the respect and trust of a loyal base.

This means explicit references to the debaucherous antics of your past weekend are probably not okay, but comments about people enjoying themselves outside the confines of their respective industries are permissible.

Nobody wants to read content that feels like it was generated by a robot, so don’t be afraid to inject personality while adhering to the goals and image of a specific brand.

2. Create a sense of community

Clients enjoy original content because they find it useful, informative, and entertaining. They should also feel that it is being written by people that understand them. Of course there are many facets to any individual, but, as English poet John Donne succinctly put it, “no man [or woman] is an island.” Look for the common bonds between a business and its clients that go beyond services rendered. Here the type of valuable relationships that benefit both parties are formed.

Ideally, through social media and comment sections, a similar relationship will be forged between your clients, which will, in turn, help build a community. When clients begin to rely on your content and know their experiences are shared, they start vocalizing their ideas and interacting with others. Once this process is initiated, it is not only the content but also a positive and active community that will keep clients engaged.

3. Connect to other businesses

It’s a big world, and each business has a significant internet presence. This can be used to the advantage of content marketing strategies. Forging links with similarly minded associations, while avoiding advertising direct competitors, is integral to growing an audience.

Businesses can establish mutually beneficial relationships by sharing published content that gains exposure on two platforms and thus expands an audience’s awareness of business generated content. Even if it means temporarily sending traffic outward, cross pollination between blogs and social media accounts is highly beneficial. A network of great content will always be valuable to both businesses and clients.

For further tips, check out How to Convey Your Passion in Prose and 8 Tools for Finding the Content People Really Want at the Prose Media blog.

Steve GiangolaSteve Giangola is a staff member at Prose Media, a writing service that creates high quality content for brands. Solutions include blog posts, social media updates, website copy, newsletters, white papers, and emails.

One Simple Way to Generate More Traffic for Every Blog Post

So you write that killer blog post, hit publish and go about promoting it in social media and email. You get some nice traffic, people share it with their networks and you capture a few leads. It had a good run, so now on to the next one right? That’s the way it works, you keep feeding the machine and just accept that your content has a very short shelf life.

traffic to old posts

photo credit: TheBigTouffe via photopin cc

What if I told you there was a way to give new life to those posts long after you write them?

Sure, you can go back and hand select the best of the best and promote them over and over again, if, of course, you remember to do so.

I prefer however to automate the task of resharing my blog posts in social media in a very systematic way bringing new eyeballs to posts I’ve written even over a year ago. This approach not only brings me new traffic and shares it also aids in the long term SEO process as new links and social signals show up long after the initial post.

Here’s how I accomplish this powerful content tactic.

I’ve installed a WordPress plugin call Buffer My Post written by Ajay Matharu.

As the name implies, this plugin relies on another very powerful social media tool called Buffer. Essentially, Buffer allows you to select all kinds of content to Tweet and share and then have it “buffered” to your profiles at the pace you select. (I’ve written about Buffer in the past.)

While Buffer My Post can automatically Buffer your new blog posts I use it primarily to randomly select older posts to send to Buffer each day. This way, in addition to whatever other activity I submit to social networks, I know that a handful of posts written in the past will get exposure on an automated basis. Since one of my primary objectives for using social networks is to share lots of good content with my followers, this approach helps me meet my goals.

When you set-up Buffer My Post you get to select how many posts get buffered each day, how old those posts can be and what categories and even individual posts to include or exclude. Depending upon how well you’ve structured your post categories it can be a really good idea to exclude categories that might have dated content like a webinar announcement of something.

I buffer 4 posts every 24 hours and focus on posts that are more than 45 days old but less than 12 months old. I also exclude a bunch of categories that have potential for less than evergreen content.

The installation and set-up of the plugin is pretty simple. It uses your current Buffer settings so if you want to post 4 old posts a day and you already buffer other people’s content, you may need to adjust your Buffer account settings to handle the increased load.

The only tricky part of the process for some is that you need to create a custom Buffer app in order to get the API key that allows Buffer My Post plugin to access your Buffer account. Don’t worry if that makes no sense, here’s how you do that. (This assumes you have a Buffer account already set-up – if not, do that first.)

  • Go to Bufferapp Developers page
  • Make sure you are logged in to your Buffer account
  • Click on Get Started With Our API button
  • Click on Create an App link
  • Fill in the required information
  • For last field Callback URL use native app default – urn:ietf:wg:oauth:2.0:oob (just copy and paste this into the field)
  • Look for an email from Buffer
  • In that email find the link in this line – “You can find out your own access token here and start hacking straight away!”
  • Click on the link and find the long number after Access Token: and copy it.
  • Open Buffer My Post settings in WP Admin Panel sidebar and paste that token in the Buffer App Access Token: field
  • Then just tweak the other settings in Buffer My Post as you like and your should be good to go – here’s how I do the format {title} {url} {category} – that way I automatically post the title of the post, url of the post and use the category as the hashtag.
  • The other settings such as how long between posts and age of posts are pretty self explanatory.

So, there you have it, set it and forget it method of giving new life to old content.

 

 

2014 and the Future of Social Media, Through the Eyes of Buffer

Enjoy this guest post from Leo Widrich COO at Buffer.

2014 is going to be a huge year for social media.

At Buffer, this is really exciting for us because we’re going through a period of change and refocusing. Our team continues to grow and we’re working hard to improve our recently announced Business product.

When we brainstormed how we wanted to change Buffer over the past few months to match the vision of the future of Social Media in 2014, we could only move ahead with the areas we were most confident about.

Here are a few of our thoughts on social media for 2014 and how we adapted Buffer to match it.

Pictures will continue to be hugely valuable

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen social media move further into visual media with a focus on images and videos. New services have sprung up to capitalize on the popularity of visual media: Instagram, Snapchat, Vine. Existing social networks have focused on this area as well, with Facebook buying Instagram and Twitter adding inline image previews recently. For Facebook alone, they drive lots more engagement than any other posts:

From our own experiences at Buffer, we’ve found that images are not only popular but powerful for increasing engagement rates on social networks.

We experimented with Twitter’s image previews by adding images to a lot of the tweets from our @buffer Twitter account and noticed a big difference in the engagement we received. To get a better idea of what a difference inline images made, I took the last 100 tweets including a link from our @buffer accounts (not including any Retweets) and compared the averages of the tweets with and without images included.

Using Buffer’s built-in analytics, I was able to look at the number of clicks, favorites and Retweets each of our Tweets received.


Here’s a quick look at the differences we saw:


To make sharing images as easy as possible, Buffer’s Chrome and Firefox extensions let you right-click on any image and choose to “share this image” — creating an image post with the link included:


The extension will be triggered like this:


Teams will need to collaborate more efficiently

We’ve seen in the past year at Buffer that team collaboration is becoming a bigger trend as social marketing teams grow within organizations. Team collaboration is something we expect to continue growing in 2014, with marketing teams needing various levels of control and input to be available for different roles.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 10.59.43 PM

To help with this, we’ve added team collaboration and approval features to our Buffer for Business product.

To start with, Buffer for Business customers can add more team members—up to 25 on our current plans (or more if you need a custom plan, of course).

Most importantly, though, our Business product lets you collaborate with others easily. In the “Team Members” settings page, you can add a new team member as either a Manager or a Contributor:


Here is how this breaks down:

  • A Manager can add updates to your Buffer account just like you can—they get added directly to your queue. They also have access to change your posting schedule.
  • A Contributor has more limited access to your account, so we’ll take a look at how this feature works.

This is a really great way to manage your business accounts, since you can give different levels of access to different team members. We’ve found this is super useful for managing Buffer’s social media accounts already.

More emphasis on analytics and reporting

As social marketing continues to grow, particularly into new areas like visual media, we expect to see a bigger focus on analytics and reporting of ROI in 2014. Social media teams will need to show results of their efforts.

One of the biggest reasons behind our efforts in building out Buffer for Business was to focus on more robust, detailed analytics.

View a graph of your engagement for clicks, retweets and favorites

The first thing you’ll notice on the analytics page if you’ve seen it before is that it’s now more visual: we’ve included a graph at the top of this page to show you how much engagements your posts have had over time.


You can choose from either a 7-day or a 30-day period to view, just above the graph.

Compare different metrics: Retweets vs. Clicks, Posts per day vs. Retweets, etc.

Underneath the graph are two drop-down menus where you can choose which metrics to display on the graph. You can see how your overall reach changes over time compared to your number of clicks, for instance, or how your number of Retweets compares to mentions:


Export all your data

Above the graph is an export button so that you can download a copy of your analytics.

This has been one our most-requested features and we’re happy to make your data available for you to save so you can get even more out of the numbers for your business.

Sort your analytics

The main table of analytics data hasn’t changed much, except for this very important feature. You can now click on each heading above the table to sort your data however you like.


If you click once on “Retweets,” for instance, you’ll see the table sorted from lowest-to-highest. If you click again, it’ll sort from highest-to-lowest:

More thoughts on 2014 in social media

If I had to pick 2 more trends that we’ll see a huge amount of buzz in 2014, I’d pick these:

We’ll probably see some other big changes this year, as well. Advertising has been more of a focus for social networks like Facebook and Twitter recently, so no doubt this will continue to develop in 2014. Especially with Twitter going public and continued pressure to deliver on revenue, more than ever.

We may also see more integration of different media types, like Twitter has done with Vine and inline image previews. Images, videos and soundbites can all add more context to a text-based update so it will be interesting to watch how social networks use this to their advantage this year.

What are you expecting to see in social media for 2014? We’d love your thoughts in the comments below!

leotwLeo Widrich is the co-founder of Buffer, a simple and powerful social media management tool. Leo and the Buffer team write more posts on social media, efficiency, and customer happiness over on the Buffer blog. Hit him up on Twitter @LeoWid anytime; he is a super nice guy.

All My Social Media Tools in One Twitter List (Sorta)

I love lists. You love lists (Um, that’s why you’re here, right?)

Twitter users love lists, but Twitter lists lack something essential. You can build them and make them public, but you can’t let others add to and embed the list in other places. List.ly a tool I use frequently on this blog is trying to help reinvent the Twitter list by allowing people to add to, collaborate on and embed Twitter lists through the List.ly tool.

The list below is a Twitter list of the tools I use to manage and operate the various social media aspects of my business. Over the years I’ve written about most but this is the first time I’ve put them all in one place. You can view this as a Twitter list here.

By using the List.ly tool to manage this list I can give anyone the ability to add to this list, update the list with changes, share this list, embed this list, easily follow individual list members or simply use this list to build their own list.

I think many lists benefit from collaboration and moderation and now you can have both in the form of a Twitter list. Here’s some more coverage on this new feature from Venture Beat

Here’s how you combine the two for this added functionality.

  • Create a Twitter list on Twitter and give it a name
  • Log in to List.ly and create a new list with Twitter at the type and link it to your Twitter list
  • Then start adding Twitter accounts to your list through the List.ly tool
  • Invite others to view and collaborate

So, what social media tools would you add to the list below? Go ahead and add your favorite here and watch the Twitter list grow as well.

Using Media Relations to Boost Your Business

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Maggie Patterson – Enjoy!

Duct tape marketing_source-shutterstock

photo credit: stuartmiles

Content marketing. PR. Blog posts. Social media. Email marketing. It’s enough to make any small business feel overwhelmed when it comes to figuring out marketing.

The reality is that as a small business owner, you’ve got limited time and money to make marketing work, so you need to find the most effective plan of attack.

While the strategies and tactics above can all be highly effective, you need to choose the right strategies for your audience. For your marketing to help meet business goals you need to be actually reaching your customers and not just looking good to the rest of the world.

Get Into Your Ideal Customer’s Head

There is no denying the power of social media or email marketing but all the posts and emails in the world won’t matter if your customers don’t use that network or read their email. You need to start by understanding where your ideal customers look for and consume information.

While your customers may not be on Facebook or reading blogs, they may read the local paper or be an avid reader of trade magazines in your market.  That’s where media relations comes in.

Traditional media relations can act as a powerful supplement to the marketing you are already doing, helping you find new customers in an affordable way.  By working with the media and having them share your story, you can boost your credibility and reach a wider audience.

Research and Understand Your Media Targets

The best place to get started with media relations is to carefully research relevant media. If your business has a strong local presence, you may want to look at your local TV stations and newspaper as a place to get started. Perhaps you are in a market where your customers all read specific trade magazines. Talk to your customers and get an understanding of what media they consume.

You can also check out where your competitors and partners are being featured in the media and do a search on Google to reveal publications that could be a good fit for your audience.

Once you have a short list of media outlets, you want to dig in and research them further including:

  • What types of stories do they cover?
  • Do industry experts contribute stories?
  • What trends or issues have they not covered?
  • Who are the best contacts?
  • What requirements do they have for working with them?

Making Your Pitch

With your research done, you’ll have a good understanding of what types of stories each outlet is looking for and how you could possibly approach them. For a local TV morning show or business newspaper, you may want to offer to speak on a trend or issue. For a trade publication, you may be interested in being a source for an upcoming article or in writing an in-depth article.

Generally, pitches can be sent via email.  The focus of your pitch should be on establishing your authority on the topic and how it is relevant to their audience.

A good pitch should include:

  • An engaging intro. Let them know why you are a good fit and be genuine about it.
  • A summary of your story idea in two or three sentences.
  • A two-line bio to establish your authority.
  • Your contact information.
  • Writing samples if you are pitching a guest post or article for publication.

The key is to be helpful and remember that your pitch is just one of many they receive each day. Once your pitch is sent if you don’t hear back in 7 to10 days feel free to gently follow-up. After that move on to another target that may be more receptive to your pitch.

Remember, not every pitch will result in a story, your goal should be to build your relationship with key reporters over time so they do think of you when there is the right opportunity.

Media relations is a powerful way to increase your reach as a small business using a proven, highly affordable marketing strategy. Taking marketing offline may just be the way to reach your target customer and boost your organization’s credibility in your industry.

150pxMaggie Patterson is a content + communications strategist who works with small business owners to help them use content marketing, PR and social media to meet business goals.  She is the author of the Press Kit Principle, a guide to website mistakes that often hold entrepreneurs back. You can get a copy of the Press Kit Principle here or connect with Maggie on Twitter @magspatterson.